Arsenal make hard work of Huddersfield
Second-half substitute Fabregas scored from the spot on 86 minutes after League One side Huddersfield had fought back bravely from 1-0 down to level. Fabregas's winner came after Terriers defender Jamie McCombe flattened Nicklas Bendtner in the area.
The Gunners, who had Sebastien Squillaci sent off just before half-time, had earlier taken the lead through a Peter Clarke own goal on 22 minutes. Huddersfield hit back through an Alan Lee header on 66 minutes to leave Arsenal facing the unwelcome prospect of a fourth-round replay.
Afterwards Fabregas expressed relief that Arsenal, who have reached next month's League Cup final and face Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League last 16, had avoided another replay. "Today we won and we are happy we don't have to play an extra game," he told ESPN. "We are in Europe and playing the best team in Europe, so we don't need an extra game."
Disappointed Huddersfield manager Lee Clark took encouragement from his side's display. "We've got to get that level of performance, if we can do that in the second half of the season in League One, we can do what we want to achieve," he said.
Arsenal looked comfortable early on, moving the ball around with ease and carving out a string of opportunities. Andrei Arshavin rattled the woodwork after a quarter of an hour before Clarke's own goal gave Arsenal the lead. Marouane Chamakh released Bendtner and the Danish striker's angled shot was heading wide until Clarke slid in to deflect it into his own net.
Huddersfield hauled themselves back into the match however, and shortly before half-time were given a huge boost when Jack Hunt was body-checked by Squillaci as he burst clear of the Arsenal defence. Referee Mark Clattenburg did not hesitate to produce a red card and Arsenal were suddenly down to ten men.
With nothing to lose, Huddersfield started the second half positively and had a jittery Arsenal on the back foot for long periods. Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia made a superb save to deny Lee's header, and from the resulting corner Huddersfield went close again through a Joey Gudjonsson shot.
On 66 minutes, Huddersfield's pressure paid off, Lee leaping high to head home Anthony Pilkington's corner. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger responded by substituting the ineffectual Abou Diaby for Fabregas, and the Gunners immediately looked more threatening. And with a replay looming, Fabregas kept his cool from the spot to fire Arsenal into the last 16.